Harden, Rockets use strong start to down Thunder

Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden nearly recorded a triple-double and the Houston Rockets used a fast start to take down the Oklahoma City Thunder, 112-101, on Thursday night.

Harden led six Rockets in double figures with 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

"I think we played fast (and) defensively we really locked in," Harden said. "Offensively, we shared the basketball. Guys got open shots and (they) had the confidence to knock them down."

Trevor Ariza totaled 17 points and Donatas Motiejunas had 14 for Houston, which has won five of its last six. Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and Josh Smith each contributed 13 points to the victory.

Kevin Durant paced the Thunder with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook, Dion Waiters and Reggie Jackson scored 16 points apiece.

Oklahoma City had not played since last Friday and dropped its third game in four tries.

"We've struggled before and we've got out of it," Durant said. "We don't make no excuses and we figure it out."

Both teams shot under 30 percent in the last meeting, a forgettable 69-65 Rockets victory on Nov. 16 in a game Durant and Westbrook were absent from the OKC lineup.

Houston used relentless effort during a strong opening quarter in this one and jumped all over the Thunder from the onset.

Harden looked to get a lift playing his former club, scoring the first seven points for the Rockets as part of a 23-2 run early in the first. Oklahoma City made the first two field goals of the game, then did not register another successful basket until the newly acquired Waiters hit a bank shot at 5:20 which closed the gap to 23-9.

Harden netted 15 points in Houston's highest-scoring quarter of the season as it grabbed a 40-18 advantage entering the second.

Durant scored 15 of his 16 first-half points in the second quarter and helped the Thunder cut a 26-point deficit to 64-53 at the break.

The Rockets maintained a double-digit lead throughout the third and brought an 88-75 edge into the fourth.

Houston led 88-78 early in the fourth when Smith converted a pair of buckets inside during a 12-0 run that put the game out of reach.

Game Notes

OKC has been held under 100 points in four straight games on the heels of reaching the century mark in three straight -- two wins ... The win was Rockets coach Kevin McHale's 200th career ... Durant had a game-high three blocks ... Serge Ibaka finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in the loss ... Houston shot 16-of-36 from beyond the arc.